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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spanish Meatballs and Pisto Manchego - Gutsy Cooks Selections

I picked the May menus for Gutsy Cooks, so I figure I really should make them. The tapas-style menu of meatballs and Pisto Manchego was scheduled for the first weekend in May, so I'm nearly two weeks behind. But I'm determined to make all the Gutsy and Dorie selections for May, even if I have to stay up until midnight on May 31.

I love meatballs. Any kind of meatballs. Oddly, one of the few phrases I know in Spanish is "No me gustan las albondigas," meaning "I don't like meatballs." But I do, so I've never had any occasion to use this phrase of rather limited usefulness. Still, these meatballs were a little odd. They're supposed to be made from ground veal and ground pork. Whole Foods didn't have ground veal, so I substituted ground turkey--otherwise, I pretty much stayed with the recipe. While the sauce looks lovely and brown in the book's photo, it actually was an unappetizing maroon; the only ingredients were onions and red wine. I added some beef broth to tone down the sauce, but it still looked a little purple.

If I made these meatballs again, I'd add some ground beef to the mix, increase the beef stock so that it and the wine would be about half and half. I'd also add a little tomato paste. They are meatballs, though, and me gustan las albondigas.

The Pisto Manchego, on the other hand, was perfect. The recipe called for two green and one red bell pepper, but I'm not a huge fan of green pepper, so I substituted a yellow and an orange pepper for them. This recipe is here. Pisto has its own Wikipedia entry. To be authentic, it should have green peppers, so my substitution made it Faux Pisto, but we Americans are always messing about with classic recipes. We can't help ourselves.

The vegetables are cooked, but they taste very fresh and delicious. The small amount of red wine vinegar, along with an equally small amount of sugar, work together to emphasize the vegetables' flavors; I added chopped basil instead of parsley, mostly because I put parsley in the meatballs and I wanted a different herbal flavor for the vegetables. It's a good thing we liked these vegetables because the recipe makes a mammoth potful. Fortunately, they can be eaten cold, at room temperature, or warm. They can be eaten as an appetizer, or for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We should be done with them by the time I make last week's recipes: Pad Thai and Mango and Papaya Salad.

Jim: "I really like the vegetables. I'll give them a 9. I like the meatballs, too, but not as much. They still get an 8 though."
Marie: "I pretty much agree. The Pisto Manchego is very good, and versatile. I think a 9 is about right. I think I'll give the meatballs a 7.5 because they're not as good as I thought they would be."

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